Monday, November 7, 2016

Feds raid Chinese booths at SEMA, AAPEX

It’s pretty nervy to come to the U.S. with counterfeits and knockoff parts to display and try to sucker buyers, but it happens. (Anyone remember when the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association found Chinese brake pads that were made from compressed grass instead of friction materials?) It’s particularly plucky and downright dumb to come here and do it at prestigious equipment shows where the real product owners may be right down the next aisle.

This year, it happened at one of the premier automotive product trade events – the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas Nov. 1-4. SEMA is such an exclusive show that it’s not even open to the general public.

But this time the victims of the counterfeiters struck back. The show had just begun when after hawk-eyed employees of Omix-ADA, maker of aftermarket Jeep parts, spotted the Chinese booths with fakes on display, some bearing Omix-ADA’s trademark “Rugged Ridge” on the phony parts.

The Georgia-based company quickly got an attorney and obtained an emergency restraining order, which led to a search and seizure by the U.S. Marshals Service. On Nov. 2, federal marshals raided a couple of booths owned by Chinese companies showing off and selling knockoffs (not their own patents) aftermarket parts like hood latches, light mount assemblies and Jeep Wrangler front grilles.

But that’s not all. Later that day, several automotive publications reported that six additional booths belonging to other Chinese aftermarket parts were shut down at the Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo nearby.

At least two publications got the first bust on video, and by Thursday photos of the raid hit the Internet, along with the federal complaint, judge’s orders, and statements from Omix-ADA’s blog.

According to Omix-ADA’s blog, the feds surprised the Chinese companies who tried to box up products and hide them, showing “utter fear.” One Omix employee was quoted as saying in the blog: “All of a sudden none of them knew how to work a phone or laptop, or they outright denied everything ...”

Counterfeit products and copyright infringement is in direct violation of SEMA policies, and the statement confirms that the managing parties took appropriate action to remove violating exhibitors from the premises. Omix-ADA likened retaliation to “whack a mole” but fully plans to take legal action.